working together for the future of faith
(1a) Mark 14:3-9 = Matt 26:6-13
(?1b/2b) John 12:1-8
(2a) Luke 7:36-50
(?1b/2b) John 12:1-8
(3) IgnEph 17:2
(1) Mark 14:3-9
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. 4 But some were there who said to one another in anger, "Why was the ointment wasted in this way? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the good news3 is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her."
= Matt 26:6-13
Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. 8 But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, "Why this waste? 9 For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor." 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this good news2 is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her."
(2) Luke 7:36-50
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him--that she is a sinner." 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "speak." 41 "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" 43 Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus3 said to him, "You have judged rightly." 44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." 48 Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" 50 And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
(1b/2b) John 12:1-8
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them1 with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii2 and the money given to the poor?" 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."
(3) IgnEph 17:2
For this end did the Lord suffer the ointment to be poured upon His head, that His Church might breathe forth immortality. For saith [the Scripture], "Thy name is as ointment poured forth; therefore have the virgins loved Thee; they have drawn Thee; at the odor of Thine ointments we will run after Thee." Let no one be anointed with the bad odor of the doctrine of [the prince of] this world; let not the holy Church of God be led captive by his subtlety, as was the first woman. Why do we not, as gifted with reason, act wisely? When we had received from Christ, and had grafted in us the faculty of judging concerning God, why do we fall headlong into ignorance? and why, through a careless neglect of acknowledging the gift which we have received, do we foolishly perish? [ANF]
John Dominic Crossan
Stratum: II (60-80 CE)
Crossan gives the incident a positive historical rating, while the collective JS vote (see below) was Gray for all versions of the story.
Color Mark 14:3-9
Gray Matt 26:6-13
Gray Luke 7:36-50
Gray John 12:1-8
Gray IgnEph 17:1
The Acts of Jesus sums up the views of the Fellows as follows:
This story has been recored by all four narrative gospels. There are significant variations in the four versions, yet there is also remarkable agreement on the basic ingredients of the tale. The setting of all versions is a meal, or symposium, at which the owner of the house is present. A woman anoints Jesus during the meal (not before or after it) with a jar of perfume. Members of the party object to the woman's action and Jesus defends her. The similarities in the setting and plot suggest that one incident or story lies behind all four versions. Yet because of the variations in other details, the Fellows of the Seminar decided that the original version of the incident is irretrievable.
Interestingly, Luedemann [Jesus, 94] comments on the Mark passage: "The historical yield of the tradition is nil. But it does reflect the closeness of Jesus to a probably notorious woman of Galilee (cf. on Luke 7:36-50)."
In his comments on the Lucan version, Luedemann suggests that Luke knew the Mark story yet deviated from his usual practice of following Mark closely in the passion account in order to bring this story (in an amended form) to an earlier location in his Gospel. He notes the addition of explicit mention of the sinner status of the woman in vss 37 and 39 (and the forgiveness of her many sins in vss 47, 48, 49). He then concludes:
"If the story of the woman who was a sinner must be regarded as a mere development of Mark 14:3-9 it is unhistorical. But as the encounter of Jesus with a prostitute comes from the Lucan special tradition, this may be historical. For the contact of Jesus with shady people is a fact. The historicity of the encounter of Jesus with a prostitute is supported by the criterion of offensiveness." (p. 308)
This poem originated as a contribution to the HODOS online community by Gene Stecher. It is published with Gene's consent but he explicitly retains full rights as the creative author. You welcome to use it for personal study and worship, but it should not be published in any other form without the author's prior consent. Index to Gene Stecher's poems
For my phrase "Prostitute blessing", see Patterson's explanation of Lk 7:36-50 in his "Dirt, Shame, Sin", Hoover's Profiles, p. 203-204.
" Young man" may be Mark's insertion of the Initiate of his community into the events of the final hours. The initiate experiences fear and desertion as well as the privilege of proclamation (Mk 16:6-7) as he graduates from the "linen cloth" garb of initiation into Jesus' death (Mk 15:46) to the" white cloth" garb of good-news resurrection bearer. [And of course in Secret Mark the young man was "taught the mystery of God's domain" prior to either of these events; Acts of Jesus, p. 117]
It's a helpful exercise, I think, to assume the identity of each participant in this drama: Jesus, temple specialist, crowd member, leper, female annointer, I-object, sleeping disciple, betrayer, arrest-party member, sword wielder, young-man/woman. - Gene